11 November 2008

Filter Off!


Objects ∕ Urban Environment

As with vacuum cleaners or coffee machines, there are a dazzling array of filters to be found in the built environment. Whether you like it or not, every time you go shopping you are filtered, sorted, hearded and sieved into order.

A teenage-quad-bike-hooligan filter

The filter shown above is one of several which have been erected to protect Cross Flatts Park (in Leeds, England) from rampaging teenagers on quad-bikes. The park must have been pretty badly hit by this rather obscure problem, since the construction definitely means business: even walking through the thing feels alarmingly close to an impending decapitation. The two angled bars would definitley put a dampener on any plans for a midnight motorbike romp, but look as though they might just about accomodate someone in a wheelchair. Which can’t be said about the following all-too-common fixture of German supermarkets:

A consumer-rush/wheelchair filter

I have never understood why a turnstile is necessary at the entrance of a supermarket. I have never seen the uncontrollable mob of foaming-mouthed consumers for whom this useless construction has been installed. The turnstile blocks the flow of customers and requires absurd acts of coordination to move through with a trolley, children, or shopping bags. Psychologically speaking, the turnstile is a way of telling the customer to please fuck off. Particularly so for consumers in wheelchairs.

For this reason, the supermarket turnstile was awarded the annual Betonkopf (“Cement Head”) prize in 2007, by Germany’s Brandenburg Association for the Disabled. The main culprits were, naturally, crap-supermarket chains Aldi, Netto and Plus, the latter of whom, according to the Association, have failed miserably in removing the turnstile from their existing supermarkets, and still insist on fitting them into newly built stores.

This correspondent can confirm, meanwhile, that semi-crap-supermarket chain Kaiser’s have removed turnstiles from at least one refurbished store in Berlin, have not fitted them to another newly built store. Pleasing for customers not in wheelchairs, and probably the dawning of a new era for people in wheelchairs.

Incidently, turnstiles belong to a group of architectural fixtures called “baffle gates”. The German word for this is the utterly horrid “Vereinzelungsanlage”, which means something like “isolation system”. To end on a lighter note however, I feel inclined to include the following image, found on Wikipedia. It is the common ancestor of all baffle gates: the stile. This particular stile is an ingenious three-way filter allowing humans and dogs to travel in two directions, whilst obstructing the movements of sheep.

A sheep filter